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What students learned in math class 2014

By Daris Howard

       Over the years, we have found that one of the students' greatest criticisms of any math class is their claim that they didn't learn anything. Therefore, as part of their final, I have the students list 10 things that they have learned. These items can be anything at all in relation to the class. They are allowed to write their list ahead of time and bring it to the final if they want. Most observations are quite normal, but some make for interesting reading. Each year I list some of them, and here is this year's list:

       1) I learned not to go to class hungry. You can't think.
       2) I learned it is better to just do your homework than to keep worrying about doing it.
       3) I learned some parts of math aren't as bad as I thought. Of course, I also learned that others are worse than I thought.
       4) I learned that the guy sitting next to me smells amazing.
       5) I learned that class was not meant for sleeping, but I can't seem to stay awake.
       6) It is easy to remember what it is called when money is gaining because it is like a person getting fat so it is called come pounding.
       7) I learned that I always think I will get my work done over the weekend, but I never do.
       8) I learned I wasn't good at math, only crunching numbers. I also learned that the two are different.
       9) I learned that a girl in class that I don't like had a crush on me. Eww!
       10) I learned that I hope my husband knows math because I sure don't.
       11) The only thing I want for Christmas is a passing grade.
       12) I learned that using your dollar on a fast food dollar menu is more useful than using it on the lottery. At least you get something for your dollar.
       13) I learned that I should be listening in class and not drawing. But some of the examples Professor Howard uses in class give me some great inspiration for cool pictures.
       14) I learned it isn't smart to take girls out that you take a class with. Something always goes wrong.
       15) Threw (sic) this class I learned to present myself.
       16) I learned that if I do my homework before the exam, then I am able to get a higher score on the test. Now I just need to figure out how to get myself to do the homework.
       17) I learned to appreciate probability more. I used to really hate it. I actually still do, but at least I appreciate it more.
       18) On the budget project, I thought that it would be okay to just work a minimum wage job. But after I worked through it and finished processing the numbers I realized not only would I not be able to afford to buy a house, but I wouldn't even be able to afford rent. I realized I would have to move back in with my parents if I wanted to survive. That is real motivation to continue going to college and get a better job. Not that I don't love my parents or anything; it would just be better not to live with them.
       19) I learned that I probably chose to date the only guy on campus that has commitment issues.
       20) I learned that Professor Howard is older than I thought. I found out that he taught my father something like a million years ago.
       21) Liking math won't kill you. Many people think that hating math is cool, but in reality it isn't.
       22) I never knew there was a kind of math class like this. I learned that math is often a common sense class, in which I can base a judgement off of that intuition. Of course, I also learned that I think things that aren't correct because I sometimes lack common sense.
       23) I have learned that if I have low expectations in life I am happier because I can be pleasantly surprised instead of painfully disappointed. It took a couple of tests for me to figure this out, but I did.

        Daris Howard, who grew up on an Idaho farm, is an author, playwright and math professor at BYU Idaho. His website is darishoward.com.

(Posted 6/17/14; Opinion: General)

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